From Plato, who believed that the dead walked around a cemetery, Pliny the younger who told of his friend’s in Greece encountering a ghost of an old man in a chain, and Arthur Conan Doyle, who himself manifested as a revenant looking for his lost diary in his former early abode, there is no distinction between the learned and the general in acknowledging the existence of spirits. There are more things on earth than are explained in theories. Poltergeist: Then and Now by Wayne Ridsdell revisits the places where the noisy spirits were/are reputedly manifesting themselves and lets the reader judge the veracity of the existence of the century-old poltergeist on his own.
The book reads like an anthology for the history of poltergeist 101. The author has gleaned several famous poltergeist cases from the Cock Lane Poltergeist to Borley Rectory Haunting, The Enfield Poltergeist, and the Rosenheim Poltergeist. They are all too familiar to stimulate the reader searching for a new case of the subject, even if it may not be as sensational as the aforesaid famous cases. But in all fairness, the instances’ enumeration latently serves as suggestive DYI touchstones for discriminating the genuinely supernatural from the others, including mental illness, fraud, or overt imagination. Take, for example, the Cock Lane Poltergeist and the Mayfair Ghost, aka Berkeley Square ghost. Despite the shocking incidents recorded in the annals, the circumstantial evidence surrounding the cases arises from a jilted lover’s malice, the rage of failed expectation, and rambunctiousness of avarice, manifested in one big hoax of an invented poltergeist. Although the authors do not directly debate the cases’ truthfulness, the detailed accounts of the stories behind the issues bespeak the possibilities of stratagem.
What lacks in the originality of strange poltergeist incidents makes up in the unveiling intelligence about historical and literary relations to the ghostly phenomena. For example, the haunted 50 Berkeley Square in London inspired Rudyard Kipling’s “Tomlinson,” a poetic version of the Book of Dead retold in his poetic vision is a gem to discover. From London, the reader travels to the ghastly Glamis Castle and finds himself in the secret chamber where the sinister force originates from, which no one but the first-born son at his twenty-one birthday can access to. The secret remains intact to this date in the Bowes-Lyons Family, the castle owner, who included Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and the unfortunate Nerissa and Katherine, who were locked up in an asylum for their prenatal imbecility till their death, eschewed by their loyal cousins. The reader’s thirst for the supernatural piquancy in the context of historical evidence is adequately quenched in such information.
The reader keen on supernatural (not paranormal, psychic, or psychological) stories based on real events might find this book mediocre in contents that are a well-organized summation of case studies. Still, the book is a good primer for the world of poltergeist and its historical record that links the past to the present, which the noisy spirit knows no boundary of time and space. What happened before happens now and will happen tomorrow. I think this is what the author wants to ascertain in this book.
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Invitation, Manifestation, and Escape are typical acts in horror movies from ‘The Exorcist’ to ‘The Changeling’ and to ‘The Others’, all of which are supreme ones of the genre, demonstrating the genuine scare is without a masked slasher on a killing spree that seems to revive forever like a Phoenix. But what about ‘The Boy’ (2016)? The movie is a lackluster flick, a smart apprentice of the masters mentioned above but without depth and breadth of knowledge of the essence of things, natural and supernatural.
It follows a young American woman with a past named Greta (very German or Grimm maybe?) hired by the overtly strange elderly couple as a nanny to their little son Brahms (possibly Bram Stoker?), a porcelain doll. As in Kubler-Ross’s Stages of Death, she shocks and denies, then accepts that she is a nanny to the doll. Of course, pretty Greta is not lonely because a young, good-looking grocer named Malcolm courts her as politely suavely as an English can be. Then Greta’s ex-lover Cole, who is the epitome of big, rough, and domineering man, suddenly manifesting from America in the English mansion, demanding she should leave for the states in the morning with him. And that’s not the end, for we are rudely introduced by a third character (or the same?), and the stupendousness of the story swivels in the flashes of screams, blood, tears, etc.
Watching this movie last night on Netflix made me think that the classic horrors of the 70s and 80s were indeed long gone and would not revive – at least for now. What begins as a classic supernatural story ends as a tepid escapade from one big mess. Greta’s coming to England is loosely explained, not to mention Cole’s sudden appearance in the English countryside manor is abruptly shoehorned into the story, breaking the thread of subplots, changing the atmosphere of the movie into a thriller that is not supernatural at all. Nevertheless, Lauren Cohan’s performance as Greta is commendable for her naturalness and arduousness in portraying her role that is the only gem of the movie that makes it watchable without turning it off.
Maybe I am either anachronistic or fastidious in selecting horror movies because of my propensity for subtle but incredible supernatural thematic elements without monsters, deformed humans, or amorous lovers. So be it. It’s all about how a story is intelligently and entertainingly told on the screen with minimum special effects, gore scenes, love scenes staging in either big swanky English country houses or big deserted mansions that are conveniently used as thematic elements. Reading the background information on this movie, I have noticed that there are quite a few production companies involved in making it. Would it be the reason for turning this otherwise excellent thematic element into a dull child’s play? Did all the companies know a thing about a movie not in monetary terms but art for art’s sake? I wonder.
“The Entity (1982)” is an American film based on the real-life event of Dorothy Bither, who was habitually raped by evil spirits that followed her everywhere. In the movie, Dorothy is Carla Moran, a young, intelligent single mother of three whose life becomes a Circle of Hell incarnate on earth in which she becomes a sexual slave of the unseen unclean spirits. Despite the physical signs of attacks, her well-meaning but over-zealous psychiatrist Dr. Phill Sneiderman believes that her unhappy childhood and different anfractuous life experience generate the mind’s play. He then forces his belief into her with a superior sense of academic and professional pride, even if her children have witnessed supernatural powers are attacking their mother. Carla catches at straws in the form of parapsychology to set herself free from the demonic forces, even if the help is not entirely altruistic and may turn on a full circle of violation of her body, her heart, and her spirit.
The film agrees to the truth on the supernatural essence of rape by portraying Carla as a woman of diligence, intelligence, and heart who goes to a secretarial school at night for a better future. Her love and affection for children are filled with kisses and smiles, even to her head-strong adolescent son. Her childhood memories and paths she treaded upon thus far might have been labyrinthine, but just because you have past wounds doesn’t mean you are stigmatized for the malady of the heart forever. Dr. Sneiderman’s attitude toward his patient Carla is reminiscent of the late Victorian and early 20th-century institutionalization of women with checkered lives, the victims of violence, into crudely primitive asylums where any sane person was sure to lose a reason before long. However, Carla rejects her telltale testimony to the supernatural terror to be nothing but a tale told by a lunatic woman, full of sound and fury that means nothing.
‘The Entity’ is a classic movie of supernatural phenomena in the ordinary surrounding of Los Angeles, CA. What makes this film classic in its pure literary sense is the absence of gory scenes accompanied by shrill screams of overtly acted characters who know what will happen to them. Nudity is present in the film not as gratuitous scenes of repertories of box-office horror movies but as realistic segments of what and how it happened all. I initially avoided watching this film by its thematic subject of rape and its naturally subsequent psychological narrative analysis as someone craving for a true supernatural story without frequent staccatos of blood splashes and big sharp tooth. It was a low hope for high heaven when the film was impressively indelible in my mind after I watched it last Saturday. If you prefer watching 70s and early 80s supernatural films over slash movies after the golden periods of the genre, ‘The Entity’ will entertain your sentiment and satisfy reason. And remember this: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Don’t forget that.
The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind by Claude Lecouteux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Salman Rushdie spoke of ghosts as the souls of the dead tending unfinished businesses on earth. Be it everlasting phantasmal whistling from the desolate fields of the buried or flickering of lights with sounds of footsteps in manmade abodes, but mind you that sometimes they come back. It is not about the fashionable New Age enlightenment advocating the veracity of paranormal activities involving ghost hunters, would-be, or self-proclaimed practitioners of occultic practice. It is academically certifiable, according to the eminent French Medieval Studies scholar Claude Lecouteux in his treaties on the formidable return of the souls departed.
The belief systems that the souls of the dead will and can come back to where they have left are universal in all cultures, including the dominant Christianity. Christianity, especially the Church of Rome, has drowned upon syncretism of pre-existing uniform pagan beliefs that paying due respect to the dead by offering food on their anniversary of death is an obligation and prevention of malice thrown upon the living. Lecouteux affirms in the discourse of the truth of revenants by the ecclesiastical records of Pope Gregory the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Augustus. Even the ancient pagan luminaries, such as Ovid, Pliny the Elder, and the Younger, and Plato, corroborated the Wondering Souls’ existence roaming among the mortals. These great benefactors of humanity averred that sometimes, by the mysterious will of God, the dead are not entirely gone to the world beyond or occasionally permitted to manifest in reality. Therefore, it is worth giving such notions a preferential credit over the sensational testimony of ghost hunters, psychics, or gypsies.
Lecouteux illustrates peculiar funereal practices, especially of the Northern Europeans, such as putting the deceased’s head between the legs, sealing the roofs, windows, or any openings of a house of the dead lest the departed remain in the place of the living. After a breath of life leaves the corporeal temple, it ceases to exist and is, therefore, doesn’t belong in this world. Lecouteux’s treatise becomes a historical narrative of the deceased’s whys and wherefores in a confused state of spiritual anomy, refusing to cut a tie to the terrestrial world that they don’t belong any longer.
The book is my second read written by the French scholar following The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted, an excellent read in its multidisciplinary approach to validate the historical events of the fantastic phenomena in the narrative style conflated with Thucydidian objectivity and Herodotusian parataxis. Although this book retains the cracking narrative tradition of his, it is not as enthusiastically stimulating as the other book on the more popular noisy spirits for the sake of the subject itself. Perhaps, my being of the modern era accustomed to the sensory effects influenced by films and other visual aids may contribute to a rather unjust opinion on this book about revenants. Notwithstanding the preferential subject matters, this book will be a valuable textual source for historical, cultural, or social research about the universality of belief systems molded into a syncretism of the Church’s established religious doctrine. Or to put it simply, this book will pique anyone not easily succumbed to occult fad but equipped with a curious mind on the restless wandering souls, thus helping fortify his or her belief that sometimes they do come back.
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The souls of the departed haunt the ground;
Wandering amid the waves and by the shore,
Flitting over the spires and on the graveyard,
Wailing in woes of eternal sorrow cast in a moor,
The revenants tell their litany of misery thru
The howling of the wind, the rustling of the foliage
in the mountain’s haze vanishing into the pale hue
of the sunset riding in the phantasmal carriage
of the revenants driven by the horses of the Hades
neighing with fires and furies galloping vigorously
toward the temple of Artemis from the edges
of the earth as the headless driver rushes fiendishly
to the coliseum of the souls for the spectral orison
for the eternal rest in peace denied by gods in unison.